We all know that it is important to get out into nature, but often it is something that we just don't do. We come up with many excuses as to why we cannot go outside. Since 1984, Japanese researchers have been looking at the benefits of going out into nature on the human body.
Forest bathing involves spending leisurely time in a forest setting, thus inhaling the smells (aromatherapy), seeing the visual beauty, hearing the rustle of the leaves, and touching mother nature. In my normal day I don't get to spend time out in nature other than walking on cement and occasionally eating outside. On the weekend I try to make time to get my hands in the soil, my feet in the grass, and turn off all of the modern electronic conveniences that tie me down. The connection we need the most sometimes is with Mother Nature and all of her beauty.
In one research study, Japanese researchers looked at 280 subjects. Six of the subjects spent 30 minutes walking and gazing in one of 24 forests, while another six subjects spent the same time in an urban area. The people in the forest noticed improved cortisol levels, pulse rates, blood pressure, and better relaxation when compared to the subjects who were in the urban areas.
Similar results were published in the International Journal of Immunopathology and Pharmacology, European Journal of Applied Physiology and Journal of Biological Regulators and Homeostatic Agents showing that forest bather's also had an increase in immunity-boosting natural killer (NK) cell activity, and that the number of NK cells and anti-cancer proteins known to combat cancer were increased. These other studies also showed similar urban environment results as the Japanese research.
I am encouraging my patients to spend at least 30 minutes outside several days a week to help them feel better and to boost their immune systems. Remember when you were a kid and you would spend hours outside playing? Make sure that spending time outdoors is part of your family's traditions.